On average, men have a shorter lifespan of six years lesser compared to women. In an article by Harvard Health Publishing, 57% of living human beings above the age of 65 are female and by the age of 85, that portion increases to 67%.
“Grow a mo’ save a bro” is the motto of the Movember Foundation and a reminder that the cause isn’t just to see who can grow the finest moustache but as a gesture of solidarity to raise awareness on men’s health and wellness.
Movember was first established in Australia in 2003 as a means of raising awareness about men’s health issues. It was turned into an official charity in 2004 with all funds raised being donated to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.
By sparking conversations about the illnesses threatening men around the world, the foundation seeks to fund health services and research programmes, as well as inspire men to seek help and get tested. Focusing on early intervention, engaging men and working to their strengths, the foundation aims to reduce the rate of male suicide by 25% by 2030.
Today, the movement has spread to all corners of the world to raise funds and awareness on health issues. But ask most people on the street about Movember and most would be quick to say, “It’s the prostate cancer awareness campaign”. Unbeknownst to many, this movement goes well beyond prostate cancer – covering testicular cancer as well as mental illness, and suicide affecting men.
What can we do?
- Get that check-up; after all, it’s #nothingtofear
YouTuber Jared Lee went to see a doctor right away upon discovering something odd about the size differences of his testicles. “It was hard to tell because it didn't hurt... but on one night, there was just a tugging feeling in my heart that I should get a doctor's opinion,” he said.
Jared’s suspicions were confirmed when scan results showed that his left testicle was definitely larger than normal. According to the doctor, 99% of it was a cancerous tumour.
Ironically, one of the main culprits behind delayed checks (or lack thereof) among men is the fear of finding something amiss with their body. According to the National Cancer Society Malaysia, 60% of cases in Malaysia are detected at later stages (stages three and four). The good news is, the sooner a tumour is discovered, the higher the chances of recovery. So, there really shouldn’t be any fear of opting for prostate cancer screening during your regular health check-ups – especially if you’re a male aged 50 and above.
As for testicular cancer, it mainly affects younger men of ages 15-35, and while it’s one of the more treatable cancers, it’s also the easiest to go by unnoticed. So, your best bet is to get a regular physical exam from your doctor for testicular cancer every six months. But, if time or other commitments don’t permit, you can carry out a self-examination on a regular basis at home. So, guys, if you’ve spent October telling women to get a check-up, it’s now time to walk the talk and get yourself checked too.
- Speaking up is man-ing up
Despite the generally shorter lifespans of men compared to women, the conversation around men’s health remains stifled. It doesn’t help that historically; societal norms have typically seen a man’s standing in the social hierarchy as predicated by dominant masculinity. This has birthed ideas like stoicism, which promotes a self-reliance among men – in other words, a kind of lone ranger “I’ve got this” attitude.
While there’s nothing wrong with this mindset in and of itself, it can potentially lead to an over-reliance on self-reliance. Coupled with social and cultural ideas of rigid male stereotypes, you can see why men might feel speaking up about their ailments as hindrance to their ‘macho’ image.
The truth is, a total of 4.2 million Malaysians suffer from mental health problems. And more alarmingly, despite the incremental reduction in suicide rates, suicide still claims around 40 lives a second.
So, guys, it’s time to man-up and speak up. Speaking openly about our ailments and wellness at large can help to normalise the conversation and spur increased awareness among our fellow bros on the best way to prevent and beat these illnesses. With the increased accessibility of platforms and influence through social media, there’s never been a better time to challenge the male heteronormative stereotype.
- Ladies, get your men onboard
This isn’t just an issue for men. To tackle the problem and work towards a world where future generations won’t have to face the same challenges as the men today, action needs to be taken at both individual and community levels. This means we need both men and women – fondly recognised as ‘Mo Sistas’ by the Movember Foundation – on board and working together to bring the attention and support necessary to this crucial health crisis. For the married guys, you know what they say: “Happy wife, happy life”. So, ladies, you know what to do.
The beauty of movements like Movember is the relative ease of getting in on the conversation – just grow a ‘stache! But here on our Asian shores, not every man may be follicle-y blessed to grow one.
In light of this, Manulife Malaysia has gone an extra step to ensure inclusivity for the hairy and the not-so-hairy by running its very own campaign, ‘Every Misai Saves A Guy’. This campaign celebrates and encourages even those of us who can barely grow a few strands of cat whiskers, to be a part of the movement.
As a whole, movements like these have had a great ripple effect globally, but there’s still some way to go. Let’s hope that continued contextualised efforts will spur greater awareness on men’s health for generations to come.